Jeff Reviews “DOCTOR WHO: The Green Death – Special Edition (DVD)”

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DOCTOR WHO: The Green Death – Special Edition (DVD)
BBC / 1973 / 153 mins / NR

THE EPISODE:

The final story of DOCTOR WHO’s tenth season has for years been lovingly referred to by Whovians as “the one with the maggots.” “The Green Death” does indeed have loads and loads of the slimy little (and not so little) creatures menacing South Wales, but it also marked the beginning of a major turning point and has one of the most touching scenes in all of the series’ classic era.

Throughout season ten, The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) had been promising to take his companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) to the glorious blue planet Metebelis Three. Now that he is finally able to control the TARDIS and travel throughout time and space, he is determined to make good on his promise. Unfortunately, the opening of Global Chemicals Oil and a mysterious death at a nearby abandoned mine shaft (where the victim emerged from the shaft glowing bright green) causes her to skip out on The Doctor and investigate. While on her investigation, she meets the young and passionate Nobel Prize winning environmentalist Clifford Jones (Stewart Bevan) who informs Jo the plant must create thousands of gallons of chemical waste, but where is it going? Is there a connection between Global Chemicals and the glowing green death? And what about all the maggots that are suddenly appearing and mutating all around the county?

With the untimely death of Roger Delgado (The Master) and the announcement that producer Barry Letts was leaving, Katy Manning decided that season ten would be her last. These three events led to Pertwee leaving the series at the conclusion of the next season. While it was the end of an era to be sure, the change would mark the beginning of the second Golden Age of classic DOCTOR WHO with the introduction of Elisabeth Sladen’s Sarah Jane Smith the following season and Tom Baker’s iconic Fourth Doctor.

“The Green Death” was a fitting finale for Jo Grant. Her reason for leaving may have been a bit on the weak side, but her character had grown significantly since her debut in “Terror of the Autons.” Still slightly ditzy, Jo had become a strong character defying both The Doctor and The Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) at the beginning of this story to pursue something she was passionate about. She had become self-assured and confident to the point where she didn’t really need The Doctor’s guidance anymore. In the commentary and the featurettes on this disc, Manning and several of the people who were there on her last day of filming recall what a tear-filled experience it was. The emotions seeped over into the story itself as we see The Doctor shed a tear for the first time over a companion’s departure.

 

THE DISC:

As with almost all of the Special Editions coming out of classic WHO, The Doctor Who Restoration Team has done a fantastic job upgrading the picture and sound quality. The full frame 1.33 picture looks probably better than it did in 1973; color is quite vibrant (just check out those electric greens!) and detail is even remarkably sharp.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack is also spot-on. The clear dialogue, roaring maggots and decent ambiance may not be a noticeable improvement like the picture, but it is a good sounding mix to be certain.

 

THE EXTRAS:

The supplements are bountiful, informative and fun.

 They start off with two commentaries: one from the original 2005 DVD release featuring script editor Terrance Dicks, producer Barry Letts and actress Katy Manning, and a new to this release commentary featuring actors Manning, Richard Franklin, Mitzi McKenzie and new series executive producer Russell T. Davies.

“The One with the Maggots: Making “The Green Death”” is another great “making of” with many of the original participants chiming in on the production. Most notably are Manning and Bevan appearing together discussing working together while dating and director Michael E. Briant recalling being told that this story was Manning’s last.

“Global Conspiracy?” is a carry-over from the 2004 DVD but it is a great one. Mark Gatiss wrote and stars as Terry Scanlon, a reporter returning to Llanfairfach years after the events of “The Green Death” to do an expose on Global Chemicals. Look for some great surprise guests returning to their roles after 30 years!

“Visual Effects” features Colin Mapson discussing how he handled the many maggot effects in the story.

“Interview with Robert Sloman” has the writer reminiscing on the project and how he came up with the story.

“Interview with Stewart Bevan” has the actor opening up about how he got the part and his relationship with Manning at the time.

“Wales Today” is a vintage television piece about how the actual location underwent a major change to attract tourism.

“Dr. Forever: The Unquiet Dead” is the final chapter of this exceptionally well done series looking at many aspects of the classic era. This episode is all about getting the new series launched after what appeared to be the final nail in the coffin with the 1996 movie.

THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES: “Death of the Doctor Parts 1 and 2” is the full story from the wonderful spin-off series where Jo meets Sarah Jane (the late Elisabeth Sladen) and the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith). This story has been presented with the added bonus of a newly recorded commentary featuring Katy Manning and Russell T. Davies.

The usual “Photo Gallery” and excellent “Production Note Subtitle” option are joined by a couple of fun Easter Eggs.

 

MY SAY:

Yes, the ecological message is very heavy handed but “The Green Death” is still a wildly ripping yarn. It boasts one of the best classic era companions coming into her own and monsters that really do give you the creeps. Recommended!

 

–  Jeff Allen

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